Labor Council Backs Harp

In her quest to become the next mayor of New Haven, State Sen. Toni Harp picked up the support of the most powerful unions in town Friday afternoon.

The Central Labor Council, which represents 13 unions with a total of 10,000 members, officially endorsed Harp’s mayoral candidacy Friday. Over 4,000 of those members live in New Haven.

The endorsement came at a press conference at the labor council’s headquarters across from Criscuolo Park on Chapel Street.

Bob Proto (at center in photo), head of the Central Labor Council, promised Harp (at right) “feet on the street”—union members working to get out the vote and make her the next mayor.

The council includes Yale’s UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35, the two most powerful and politically active unions in town.

The endorsement culminated Harp’s first full week of campaigning since the legislative session ended. Friday’s was the second major endorsement of the week, which also included a day of media attention for a police ride-along and press conference on public safety.

The events were designed to present her as the frontrunner in a seven-way race.

Harp is one of seven Democrats running to replace Mayor John DeStefano, who’s stepping down at the end of the year after two decades in office. The primary takes place on Sept. 10.

Union support will be a key factor in this year’s election. Two years ago, Yale’s Locals 34 and 35 helped orchestrate a sweep of a majority of seats on the Board of Aldermen by a slate of labor-affiliated candidates.

Mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez has picked up the support of three building trade unions.

Dave Cicarella, head of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, called Harp “a friend to all of us—not just labor or teachers, but all citizens.”

Proto said that the council respects all the candidates in the race. But “collectively and unanimously” the council has “chosen to endorse Toni Harp.”

Proto called about 20 labor leaders up to stand behind him as he introduced Toni Harp. Aldermen Migdalia Castro, Santiago Berrios-Bones, and Brian Wingate joined them.

Harp said New Haven is at a “critical point.” She said people need to come together and work for “sustainable jobs,” safe neighborhoods, and quality education.

Proto said the labor council’s endorsement process included representatives from each of the member unions, who all voted to support Harp after a special committee interviewed mayoral candidates. Proto said the committee couldn’t reach State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield or Sundiata Keitazulu to interview them.

Proto (pictured) said Harp has a “unique set of qualities” and a “unique history that will allow her to tackle New Haven’s problems. He cited her work on community policing as a city alderwoman, and her work on jobs and education as a senator.

Any endorsement is “hollow” without “feet on the street,” Proto said. “It is our culture to do turnout.”

Proto said “slightly over 4,000” of the 10,000 members in the labor council’s unions live in New Haven. “We like to have folks that live in New Haven take the lead” in campaigning, Proto said.

Cicarella said the choice of who’s mayor of New Haven matters not just to people living in the city, but to those in surrounding towns as well, because of the impact the city has on the area.

Not all unions in the council have individually endorsed Harp.

Laurie Kennington, head of Yale’s Local 34, said her union is officially supporting Harp, as is Local 35.

Jimmy Kottage, head of the firefighters union, said he was there to support the labor council, but that his union hasn’t gone through its own internal endorsement process yet. 

The Central Labor Council’s 13 member unions are:

Ironworkers Local 424, AFSCME Local 3429, American Federation of Teachers Local 933, Communications Workers of America Local 1298, New Haven Fire Fighters Local 825, OPEIU Local 153, Sheet Metal Workers Local 40, UNITE HERE Local 34, UNITE HERE Local 35, AFSCME Local 287, IAM Lodge 26, NALC Branch 19, and UNITE HERE Local 217.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 14, 2013  6:20pm

Proto said the labor council’s endorsement process included representatives from each of the member unions, who all voted to support Harp after a special committee interviewed mayoral candidates. Proto said the committee couldn’t reach State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield or Sundiata Keitazulu to interview them.

Give me a break.The bird was done already.

posted by: Esteban on June 14, 2013  6:50pm

Gosh…what a surprise!

posted by: Eddie on June 14, 2013  7:13pm

With a string of endorsements Harp clearly has the relationships to build progressive consensus across New Haven.  Given this week’s endorsements and the recent articles detailing her long-time involvement with important issues such as community policing, I’m beginning to see why so many see her as a formidable candidate.  I also appreciate that she was one of the first candidates to question the 9th square bailout and call for more focus on development outside of downtown. There are many strong candidates in this election, but the central labor council cannot go wrong with an effective progressive leader.

posted by: Xavier on June 14, 2013  7:37pm

The battle lines are being drawn and the soldiers being called to form.

One City Henry versus the “Senator.”

This shall be the mother of all elections with lots of money going to be spent, leaving our democracy fund folks in the dust, but with their principles intact, and their supporters grumbling.

The Senator has really pumped up the game here, hitting some great press. But I just still have a hard time buying that The Senator is going to have what it will take to run the city. These unions and labor people want a weak-winner in the second floor office of city hall. One City Henry, not so nice, but very much a hardball player.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on June 14, 2013  8:45pm

This was indeed a very prudent move on behave of the Central Labor Council.

Does this ensure a victory for Toni Harp?  Absolutely not!  But it does denote how valuable character and the incessant work Toni has rendered to the people in New Haven over the years.

The naysayers will denounce this endorsement and dismiss it as everything horrible.

In fact, they will begin to call all the Union members egregious names because of this move.

Toni is the only candidate in this race that has a history of bringing groups with different ideological concerns together. 

Although this is another good day for Toni politically, she refuses to take anything or anyone for granted. 

I solute Bob Proto and Dave Cicarella for their care of the future and welfare of the city by making this monumental move.  Knowing Toni as I do, no one will work harder than she in this race.

posted by: robn on June 14, 2013  10:18pm

Observe taxpayers,

As about one percent of our population assisted by self interested outsiders continue to dictate to what’s supposed to be YOUR city government.

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on June 15, 2013  12:32am

So Harp has the union vote sewn up and if she wins she’ll certainly pay them back at the contract table - at the expense of the New Haven taxpayers.

The other 7 candidates need to find a way (and fast) to reach out to and organize the New Haven voters that are paying taxes. If it’s good for the unions it’s bad for the taxpayers. It really is a zero sum game. The City can no longer afford the extravagant benefits and pensions paid to its unions.

I’m hoping one of the candidates has the courage to come out and put this important issue on the table. I would also like to see some of the candidates come out and support a 2% annual cap on local property taxes.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on June 15, 2013  6:55am

Congratulations to Senator Harp.  This is big news.  I’m certain that she will the support of the Firefighters union and a few other key unions because she has the interest of the people as a whole at heart. 

I hope that all union members regardless of location (or who they support) get involved in this election.  And I hope that Senator Harp, if elected, could find a way to induce some of the 6,000 members not living in New Haven to move here.

It will be interesting to see who now stays in and who folds.  I find it telling that Representative Holder-Winfield was not available for interview, and the same for Mr. Keitazulu.  Moreover, it says a lot that Mr. Carolina has made the decision to snub the potential for this support.  I don’t doubt that our candidates will dwindle in the coming weeks.

This is a long summer and this is one of many endorsements that has been released and that will come.  I look forward to seeing the next wave of major endorsements (Harp and Fernandez) as this is now truly becoming interesting.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 15, 2013  9:42am

A family history of tax dodging aside, the union thinks Toni Harp’s history in politics is so great? Read this:,0,6711798.column

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on June 15, 2013  12:34pm

One wonders whether Proto walked into his closet , shut the door and softly whispered “Gary? Sundiata? Are u available for an interview?” Then walked out after receiving no reply and fed that bogus line to reporters. It’s ridiculous to suggest those two candidates couldnt be located. If the union had already picked it’s candidate , fine. Just own up to it rather than manufacturing an excusebSmh

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 15, 2013  1:46pm

Can she get the rank and File?

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on June 15, 2013  1:49pm

This endorsement confirms that the primary function of New Haven’s govt. is to create an ever-growing number of unnecessary, taxpayer-funded jobs. And don’t forget that Toni Harp was technically and legally “separated” from her late husband’s business.  Therefore we can overlook the fact that her husband received design contracts from the city, in violation of city ordinance—which forbids awarding such contracts to those who owe back taxes. Wendell was a great guy, but would never have gotten such special treatment if not for the cronyism that pervades every nook and cranny of our 1-party city govt. But thank goodness Toni Harp will put an immediate end to such cronyism. Well OK, she does “owe” the Central Labor Council just a “few” favors—but we can be sure such favoritism and special deals will be minimized.  As CT State Senate Chairwoman of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee Toni Harp has had a major role in putting CT’s economy dead last in the country and leading our state govt. on the road to bankruptcy. But hey, we all need to practice a skill before we master it. So after 20 years of making a mess up in Hartford, she should do perfectly well as mayor of New Haven. (Anybody know a good real-estate agent? I’m thinking it’s time to sell—before it’s too late…)

posted by: anonymous on June 15, 2013  3:01pm

I agree with Cicarella, who said “the choice of who’s mayor of New Haven matters not just to people living in the city, but those in surrounding towns as well.”

The key question for voters is, are these suburban leaders going to fight to improve New Haven for the low-income families who actually live here, or are they going to continue what they have done in the past, which is focus their time on adding more parking lots, increasing property taxes on residents so that suburbanites can have higher salaries and wages, and widening our asthma-causing highways? 

Senator Harp may have helped call for public meetings with the DOT, but she never ended up stepping in when Whalley Avenue was widened in 2009, over the objections of hundreds of residents.  With the exception of Representative Lemar, I didn’t see Senator Harp, other Big Suburban Labor leaders, or the rest of our delegation step in as other disastrous road widening projects have moved forward over the past few years. They didn’t step in when bus service was dramatically curtailed.

The reason is simple: almost none of these leaders live in the areas that are impacted by Beijing-level air pollution, and almost none of them live here. Unlike the vast majority of New Haven residents, they don’t take the bus, walk, or bike as their primary form of transportation, they don’t pay our property taxes, don’t send their children to our schools, and don’t use our libraries or deteriorating parks.

posted by: Greg-Morehead on June 15, 2013  7:21pm

Thats all I can say. 
Bob Proto said…

promised Harp (at right) “feet on the street”—union members working to get out the vote and make her the next mayor


Here comes round two of the Unions knocking on doors, EVERYDAY, harassing the residents of New haven.  How come their aren’t any checks and balances in place when it comes to things like this for the Union officials using Union dues to pay for political elections?  I know people all over CT read the NHI, how come no one from the state wants to look into this or hasn’t looked into this 2 years ago? 

As residents, we have to stand up against the Unions and not allow them to hoodwink the citizens of New Haven again.

When all of the union backed candidates got in office two years ago for Aldermen, I compared it to the movie IRobot.  In the beginning of the movie, the robots were nice to the people, working with the citizens(when the Aldermen first campaigned), then when the “brain” of the Robot(Bob Proto and the union officials) had some sense, it started controlling the robots under them and those Robots turned on the people(the current BOA). 

Residents of New Haven, are we going to let IROBOT 2 take place in New Haven?
The residents have power in numbers as well and we can determine the outcome of the election. 
Stand Up New Haven!!!!

posted by: CreatingUrgency on June 15, 2013  8:16pm

What’s her position on reform?

What’s her position on charter schools?

What’s her position on testing?

What’s her position on TEVAL?

What’s her position on destroying neighborhood schools?

What’s her position on labor rights?

What’s her position on giving the cafeteria workers fair wages and fair jobs?

What’s her position on rank and file members collectively bargaining?

posted by: beyonddiscussion on June 16, 2013  1:39pm

This is no sinister plot or conspiracy. This is just a good woman who can build consensus and do a good job. She has the endorsement of alot of folks, which is a very positive thing. So many recognize her ability to bring the change we need and to do the job.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 16, 2013  2:27pm

This is no sinister plot. It’s nothing but a cheap, crass power play to get in bed with somebody who will keep giving the unions everything they want. It’s about taking a weak candidate and propping her up and making her feel beholden to them and therefore controlled by them.

Supporters keep saying Toni Harp can put together coalitions of people =  and work with everybody, that she has all this “experience.” Toni has experience being a politician and she has longevity because she has spent the last 25 years in the DTC and running largely unopposed. She has managed no large groups of people, negotiated no contracts, built coaltions? Name one.

They mistakenly translate longevity for expertise. Across the last 3 years, Toni Harp has voted for and agreed to raise more than $3 billion in new taxes and still the state budget is unbalanced and job growth is non-existent. Connecticut is dead last in economic growth and first in taxation, first in debt.

Add years of unpaid debts and state, local and federal taxes - while raking in millions - precisely what change will Toni Harp bring? She has not brought any change to Hartford. Why would she start now? I’d have a lot more respect for those who are so vociferous in their support if they just admitted this is about the politics of union support and the DTC - because this is most certainly not about expertise and ethics. At least DeStefano owned property and paid his taxes.

posted by: robn on June 16, 2013  10:36pm

Observe a textbook example of the mechanisms of hydraulic despotism. Obey the controlling authority or your livelihood will be turned off; in this case that would be the milking machine connected to the teats of Yale, the New Haven taxpayer, as well as the State of Connecticut.

posted by: lawrence st on June 16, 2013  10:46pm

I’m excited to see that Harp got the endorsement. I think she’s the best for the job.

And Morehead, you’re right—there will be people going door-to-door. And that is a GREAT thing. As a political scientist, I can tell you that most people do not know about the election until someone tells them about it. Most people do not know how to make their voices heard, or how to get their concerns addressed. And people going door-to-door is the BEST way to fix this. I know this because of work done by political scientists, and I know this from my own experiences having my door knocked on, and knocking on the doors of others.

If you really care about this city, then go and make sure that everyone has a chance to register to vote, to be knowledgeable about the election, and to have their voices heard. Because I can assure you, simply writing comments online is not going to reach them.

posted by: David S Baker on June 17, 2013  7:56am

Safest endorsement in the history of local politics.  Even if she loses the mayoral you back the chair of appropriations at the state level.  Way to go out on a limb and foster positive change, labor lemmings. 

I had such hope back in January.

posted by: Razzie on June 17, 2013  9:40am

Why not tell us how you REALLY feel (again)!

@ Greg Morehead—
It’s somewhat puzzling to see a politician arguing against citizen involvement in elections. As noted above, slightly over 4,000 of the 10,000 members in the labor council’s unions live in New Haven. “We like to have folks that live in New Haven take the lead” in campaigning, Proto said. I believe those 4,000 union residents have a stake in this election too. You lost your last re-election race. Time to move on or join us in building a new New Haven.

posted by: Curious on June 17, 2013  10:54am

@ Razzie,

Greg didn’t lose his race against Morrison.  He lost against Local 34.

posted by: Razzie on June 17, 2013  2:17pm

Would you care to tell us about all the EXPERIENCE your candidate Elicker has amassed over the 6 years he has been in New Haven (most of which as a grad student at Yale)? Then we can compare the two records and make an informed choice. Hurling “dirt bombs” doesn’t do much good to advance the discussion.

posted by: Curious on June 17, 2013  4:17pm

Does being a state senator qualify you for the job of mayor?  Is the thought that being in state government automatically qualified you for any seat in local government?  Because that’s absurd.  That’s like saying that being the CEO of McDonald’s means you know how to make chicken nuggets.

I’d rather have a mayor who’s been involved at the local level for six years than someone who’s been sitting in Hartford for twenty five.  If your candidate needs to be driven around to be shown what New Haven is like these days, how much good is all that Hartford experience doing?

posted by: Razzie on June 17, 2013  5:34pm

ANSWER #1—Yes. Being a State Senator for __ years and being intimately involved in passing legislation that impacts nearly every aspect of the state’s citizens lives provides a great window on the world of administering to, and advocating for legislation and programs that can benefit New Haven residents and help resolve the pressing economic, public safety, and social welfare issues facing our city. Being a co-chair of the Appropriations Committee is a far greater fiscal responsibility than that of being Mayor. By every disinterested observer, including those of the opposite political party, Sen Harp has fully met her legislative responsibilities with great honor distinction. What has Elicker done to compare?

Answer #2—No. A legislative seat in state government does not automatically qualify you for local government. I would point out, however, that Sen Harp was also a NH Alderman for 6 years (longer than the accumulated sum total of Elicker’s NH experience).

ANSWER #3—The CEO of McDonalds may not make the McNuggets, but she knows how to hire someone who can. And most likely the credentials needed for that job extend beyond community organizing and “getting dirt under one’s fingernails”.

posted by: Curious on June 17, 2013  6:28pm

@ Razzie - I don’t buy it.  We think this job requires entirely different skillsets, entirely different experience, and entirely different connections to the community.

You’re basically using the McCain campaigns arguments for Toni and against Justin: McCain has been in the senate for years, and so would make a great executive; Obama is a wet-behind-the-ears junior politician with little experience and only a community organizer background.

Even if that were true…look who got elected president.

posted by: GoodNatured on June 18, 2013  9:52pm

I agree with others who have pointed out that Harp’s long tenure in Hartford is actually a strike against her.

Instead of recruiting union “feet on the street,” could she get actual New Haven residents and tax payers to support her and do her canvassing?

When the canvassers from Harp campaign come knocking, ask them if they live in New Haven, for how long, and if they pay taxes. 

I will be very curious to hear their answers.  At least Linda McMahon’s door-knockers admitted straight up they were in it for the money.

posted by: Eddie on June 19, 2013  1:30am


I have canvassed with labor organizations.  I have lived in New Haven since 2005.  I pay some forms of taxes, but, like many New Haveners, I rent and do not own a home here.  I, like all of those who canvassed with me, did so to help strong progressive leaders, like Harp. 

Perhaps I will have the good fortune of knocking on your door.  I imagine that even if we could not reconcile our political visions, we still could have a worthwhile chat about New Haven politics.  Even if our conclusions ultimately differed, I’m sure we could respect that we have come to them honestly.

posted by: Curious on June 19, 2013  2:54pm

Eddie…great post.  I may not agree with you politically , but that was a great post.

posted by: robn on June 19, 2013  3:52pm

Political scientist LAWRENCEST put it best that, “most people do not know about the election until someone tells them about it.” That’s why they are so malleable to canvassers using feel good pseudo participatory push polling as was done by the union coalition during the last BOA election. Hopefully enough people know better by now.